Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has been joined by thousands of protestors on a march through the city of Bristol as part of the Youth Strike 4 Climate.
Announcing last Saturday (22 February) that she would be joining the school strike in Bristol, Thunberg inspired a huge crowd to gather on College Green in the city centre to hear her speak ahead of the march through the city, which observers estimated stretched for over a mile long.
Thunberg has become an unlikely figurehead for the global climate movement since she began striking from school in August 2018 outside the Swedish Parliament to call for stronger action to combat the climate emergency, inspiring millions across the globe take to the streets to protest.
Addressing the assembled marchers who braved the rain on College Green, Thunberg said: “This is an emergency. People are already suffering and dying from the consequences of the climate and environmental emergency but it will get worse. Still this emergency is being completely ignored by politicians, the media and those in power. Basically, nothing is being done to halt this crisis despite all the beautiful words and promises for the elected officials.”
“So what did we do during this crucial time? What we will do right now, well I will not stand aside and watch, I will not be silenced while the world is on fire – will you? World leaders are behaving like children, so it falls on us to be the adults in the room.
The choice to visit Bristol was significant – Bristol was the first city in the UK to declare a Climate Emergency back in November 2018 and has a reputation as being a hub for environmental activism.
Activists in Bristol and North Somerset recently achieved a stunning victory after North Somerset Council voted to reject planning permission for Bristol Airport to increase its capacity to 12 million passengers a year on the basis that it was incompatible with measures needed to combat the climate emergency.
Thunberg referenced this in her address, adding: “Just look at Bristol as an example. The other week, the plans to expand Bristol Airport were cancelled thanks to climate activists. And of course this is far from enough, but it shows that it does actually make a difference. Activism works. So I’m telling you to act. If you look throughout history, all the great changes have come from the people.
“We are being betrayed by the people in power and they are failing us. But we will not back down. If you feel threatened by that then I have some very bad news for you. We will not be silenced, because we are the change and change is coming whether you like it or not. Thank you, and let’s march!”
Avon and Somerset police estimated that more than 20,000 protestors joined the march – though organisers say it was nearer to 30,000 – with some arriving on specially arranged coaches from as far away as Edinburgh.
Inspiration to millions
Green Party figures in Bristol welcomed Thunberg’s decision to join the Bristol Climate Strike – Bristol has previously seen large protests calling for immediate action to address the climate emergency, with thousands attending Extinction Rebellion’s summer uprising in July 2019.
Councillor Carla Denyer started the national movement on Climate Emergencies in the UK by proposing the first one in Bristol. She said: “Greta Thunberg and the millions of climate strikers she inspired have played such a crucial role in forcing climate change up the agenda and ensuring that politicians and other leaders cannot be seen to be ignoring the issue.
“We are delighted that Greta has decided to visit Bristol, particularly as we were the first city in the UK to declare a Climate Emergency following a motion put forward by the Green Party.”
“However, we all know that there is so much more to do, which is why it is vital activists such as Greta Thunberg continue holding policy makers to account and we continue to elect Greens who are able to make a difference in councils up and down the country.”
Sandy Hore-Ruthven, the Green Party mayoral candidate for Bristol, said: “Greta is calling for our leaders to make decisions for the future, instead of repeating the mistakes of old.
“Building new roads and expanding our airports is thinking from the last century. Instead we should be implementing policies to tackle climate change and make our city a fairer place.”